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New Belgium Family Foundation “All In” for Impact Investing
By Meaghan Scott

The New Belgium Family Foundation was started by the CEO and Co-Founder of the New Belgium Brewing Company after the company became 100% employee owned through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan in 2012. The sale to the ESOP is only the most recent example in a long history of practices by New Belgium Brewing that promote environmental stewardship and social responsibility, including being one of the early Certified B Corps. The foundation, which is run by the family independent from the brewery business, seeks to honor that positive momentum. The foundation is working towards becoming 100% mission aligned.

The decision to align the foundation’s investment portfolio with the organization’s mission for positive impact was an easy one. To the New Belgium Family Foundation, investing in any other way would not align with the values and mission of the foundation. Once the decision was made to invest the foundation’s assets in a sustainable, responsible, impactful manner, Executive Director Lucy Cantwell led a search to find an investment firm that could serve the foundation’s needs.

The search was not easy! After eliminating several large banks during an extensive Request for Proposal (RFP) process, Lucy and the board decided on a smaller investment firm that had the flexibility and mission-related investing experience to truly meet their needs. Her advice to other foundations is to take things slowly and spend time deciding who will best fulfill the foundation’s interests. Further, she suggests that you make sure that you know your own goals as well as the person or firm you are hiring to be your investment advisor, because you will need to articulate clearly what you’re looking for, as well as rely on his or her judgment and ability to help teach you when difficult situations arise.

The New Belgium Family Foundation’s mission focuses on four areas: renewable energy, sustainable agriculture, alternative transportation, and youth engagement. In less than two years, it has issued grants to 15 organizations that aim to promote positivity today as well as into the foreseeable future, including:

  • Saving Neighborhood Energy in Northern California is helping middle to low income households finance energy efficient upgrades while depositing energy savings into a bank account.
  • La Cocina in San Francisco is cultivating low income food entrepreneurs by providing essential kitchen space and training.
  • Bike Works in Seattle purchased a bike shop on wheels to engage youth in community service and bike repair skills.

The grants will be complemented with direct investments into for-profit companies, furthering the foundation’s mission in these four areas.

Lucy Cantwell has been the foundation’s executive director since June 2012. She completed Exponent Philanthropy’s Next Gen Fellows Program, in which First Affirmative’s Betsy Moszeter acted as a faculty member, teaching the financial component. The Next Gen Fellows Program focuses on creating the next generation of leaders to successfully lead foundations. Lucy is still involved as an organizer for Exponent Philanthropy’s Local Engagement Group in the San Francisco area.

To learn more about foundations and impact investing, register to attend the Exponent Philanthropy 2014 National Conference in October or the 2014 SRI Conference in November. Both conferences include at least one session aimed at helping foundations invest for positive impact, in line with the organization’s mission.

 

Mention of specific companies or securities should not be considered an endorsement or a recommendation to buy or sell that security. Past performance is no guarantee of future results.

Posted: October 7, 2014